Event marketers are a crafty bunch, finding inspiration anywhere and everywhere they go. There are lessons to be learned by visiting some of the world’s most popular traveling entertainment franchise exhibitions. From “Game of Thrones” to “Harry Potter,” there’s no shortage of dynamic, entertainment-based expo experiences that tap into rabid fan bases. Following is a look at experiential marketing lessons these vibrant showcases offer.
If you’re going to dedicate an entire exhibition to a beloved franchise, the biggest mistake is slapping it together without all of the authentic details fans crave. That’s why the creators of Jurassic World: The Exhibition go the extra mile to recreate settings from the film franchise, offering footage of classic scenes and real props along the way. Of course, the most important element of the experience, the replica dinosaurs, are ultra-realistic. A far cry from the jerky animatronics of yesteryear, the 40 ft. tall dinos feature rippling muscles, moving eyes and leathery skin that wrinkles as they move—the kind of authenticity that make long lines of fans.
One of the most successful franchise exhibitions, Harry Potter: The Exhibition immerses millions of fans in the magic of its wizarding world. A key part of its success is a robust storytelling strategy. As fans enter the exhibit, the movie them plays and the Hogwarts Express locomotive begins belching smoke as the experience begins to unfold. A “sorting” engagement, an important activity in the books and movies, puts attendees in the right frame of mind as actors portray key characters. Fans practice their Quidditch skills, fictional sport from the story). “We took that storyline and created these moments where there is some human interaction, some fun and laughter, a little bit of scare and apprehension, followed by a celebratory climax, a story arc and journey that creates great memories for the guests,” says Eddie Newquist, chief creative officer at GES.
Another wildly successful expo, Hunger Games: The Exhibition, keeps fans coming back for more with thought-provoking and educational engagements. The story is set in a fantastical, post-apocalyptic world, but creators of the exhibit find ways to include relevant, informative experiences. In the District 12 section, the impoverished home of protagonist Katniss is on display along with naturalist information on how to forage in a forest, as well as references to Greek mythology. Fans read an essay on media and war at the District 13 “propo” (propaganda) soundstage. Educational tie-ins not only create a more dynamic and enriching experience for fans, but, offer attendees who may not be acquainted with the story (like parents) a chance to engage and learn something new.
Diehard fans know every detail about their favorite movie, show or film. They know characters’ back stories, they’ve watch every TV interview and they re-read or re-watch the content countless times. However, franchise exhibitions offer fans what they usually can’t get—exclusive access. Creators of Downton Abbey: The Exhibition showcase never-before-seen footage from the popular drama series. The content features an exclusive look at the show’s beloved characters, storylines and sets. The experience gives Downton fans what they crave and initiates new converts as well.
Franchise exhibitions wow attendees with replica costumes, props and sets. The experiences often give fans the opportunity to incorporate themselves into the story. This strategy leads to success for the creators of Game of Thrones: The Touring Exhibition. Green screen photo ops technology capture pics of fans riding a dragon. An Oculus Rift VR experience gives users a 360-degree view of key locations in the series, such as Castle Black and the Wall. Fans setup an online “companion” and pledge their loyalty to a House, then receive a message from a character on their smartphones. These are impactful experiences that make fans feel connected to the franchise.
Brands of all sizes and budgets can learn powerful lessons from Franchise exhibitions. Authentic storytelling, meaningful engagements and smart connections with fans are experiential marketing basics. So, the next time an expo rolls into town, why not pop in and get inspired?
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